Arusha National Park Details
Although it is one of Tanzania’s smallest parks, Arusha National Park is one of the most beautiful and spectacular. It is also one of the few that you are allowed to walk in (accompanied by a ranger). Yet few travellers appear to visit it, possibly because of their haste to press on to the more famous parks of Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is a profound mistake since it has all the features of those three parks, including a superb range of flora and fauna.
The park’s main features are Ngurdoto Crater (often dubbed little Ngorongoro), the Momela Lakes and rugged Mt Meru (4556 metres), which overlooks the town of Arusha to the North. Because of the differing attitudes within the park (from 1500 metres to over 4500 metres) and the geological structure, there are several vegetation zones, which support appropriate animal species.
This crater is surrounded by forest, while the actual crater floor is a swampy area. To the west of it lies Serengeti Ndogo (Little Serengeti), an extensive area of open grassland and the only place in the park where herds of Burchell’s zebra can be found.
This lake like many in a rift valley is shallow and alkaline and attract a wide variety of water birds, particularly flamingos. The lake is fed largely from underground streams and, because of their different mineral content, each lake supports a different type of legal growth, which gives them each a different colour. As a result, the birdlife varies quite distinctly from one stretch of water to another, even where they are separated by a strip of land only a few metres wide.
Mount Meru which is rivals Kilimanjaro is a mixture of lush forest and bare rock and has on its eastern side the spectacular Meru Crater, a sheer cliff face which rises over 1500 metres and is one of the tallest of its type in the world.
Animal life is abundant, and although it is impossible to predict what you will see and exactly where you will see it, you can fairly certain of sighting zebras, waterbuck, reedbuck, klipspringer, hippotamus, buffaloes, elephants, hyenas, mongoose, dik-dik, warthogs, baboons, vervet and colobus monkeys. You might even catch sight of the occasional leopard, but there are no lions nor rhinos.
It is possible to see a good deal of the park in just one day – the Ngurdoto Crater, Momela Lakes and the lower slopes of Mt. Meru – assuming you are in a vehicle. But this won’t give you the chance to walk around, so it is much better to spend two days here, staying overnight at a campsite, contact us for more detail about the accommodation in Arusha National Park.
Mountain Meru History
It is estimated that Mt. Meru was formed 20 million years ago during earth movements associated with the formation of the Rift Valley. Sometime later, a subsidiary vent opened to the east of the volcano and Ngurdoto was born. As lava continued to spew out thousands of years until a violent explosion blew it apart as a result of superheated gases being trapped beneath the earth’s crust. A repeated activity of this nature gradually increased the size of the crate until the molten rock withdrew to deeper levels, leaving the cone without support. It then collapsed to form the caldera which you see today.
Although Ngurdoto is now extinct, Mt Meru is merely dormant, having last erupted only 100 years ago. The lava flow which occurred at this time can still be seen on the north-western side of the cone. The spectacular Meru Crater has formed 250,000 years ago as the result of a series explosion which blew away the entire eastern wall of the cone and showered the eastern side of the mountain with a mass of mud, rocks, lava and water. The Momela Lakes were formed out of depressions in the drying mud.
Getting there and Around
The park is 21 km from Arusha and is reached by turning off the main Arusha to Moshi road at the signpost for the national park
Our professional guide and driver will take you to an excellent series of gravel roads and tracks within the park which he will take you to all the main features and viewing points. The park can be visited throughout a year with rain season during October and November and again March and April where you will need 4WD vehicles.
When driving around the park, you must be accompanied by a guide, but if you intend to walk, an armed guide/ranger is compulsory because of the danger of buffaloes. A guide/ranger is also compulsory if you intend to climb Mt. Meru and when you drive or walk around the Ngurdoto Crater rim, you are not allowed to walk down to the Crater floor.
Shizi Safari guides contain knowledge and skills on how to take you around the park and experience the best wildlife view, birdlife and plants to be found there. We will take care as a note on accommodation, transport, climbing Mt. Meru and park entry fees. Kindly contact us with more detail information and other questions regarding the Arusha national park tours and Day trip.